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socrateaser, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 39025
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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What is standard of care for lawn maintenance by tenant on a

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What is standard of care for lawn maintenance by tenant on a single family home?
Our executed Standard Washington rental contract says " Maintenance: Tenant will at all times maintain the property, including any yard and lawns, in a neat and clean condition and upon termination of this agreement will leave the property in as good condition as it is now, reasonable wear and tear excepted."
Our move out date was April 19, 2013, but without notice in February and March, landlord sent gardeners to cut down about 6 trees, chip tree branches for removal, power wash house, clean gutters, cut back Ivy which grows on house and radically trim shrubs and do general yard clean up. He claims bill was $4,200 and our share was $2,000 which he deducted from our $5,000 security deposit and gave us $3,000 on 4/19 without an accounting of the deductions. He claims he paid cash to the gardener and doesn't get receipts. After a request for itemization over a week ago, we still have no accounting.
The home and yard were in good shape when we took occupancy on Jan 5, 2011. In April of 2011, the home won an award for "yard of the week" and was featured in the local paper. Obviously we kept it up from January to April.
We had no choice in the matter prior to leaving and feel that the deductions are both not warranted and not legal.

Are you located in Seattle? I'm asking because Seattle has a landlord-tenant ordinance that may provide additional protection, not available in other areas of the state.

Thanks in advance.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I am in Blaine WA which is Whatcom County

Okay, thanks.

Rev. Code. Wa. 59.18.260 requires that where a security deposit will be used to pay for damage to the premises beyond ordinary wear and tear, the landlord and tenant must sign a checklist specifically describing the condition of the property at lease commencement. Without the signed checklist, the landlord cannot retain the security -- in fact, the landlord cannot even collect that portion of the security deposit when the lease begins.

Rev. Code Wa 59.18.280 requires that the landlord provide the tenant within 14 days of the termination of the tenancy, "a full and specific statement of the basis for retaining any of the deposit together with the payment of any refund due the tenant under the terms and conditions of the rental agreement." Normal wear and tear cannot be taken from the tenant's security, and the tenant can sue for up to twice the amount of the entire security deposit, if the landlord fails to follow the law.

"Normal wear and tear" means things that happen over time due to regular and routine use. Landscape grows on its own. General yard cleanup is normal wear and tear. So, is ordinary growth. Gutters fill with leaves, just as paint wears off the exterior over time. Everything you describe is ordinary wear and tear. Four thousand dollars worth of landscape work is huge. The average bill for weekly maintenance is $30-60.

The court is not going to let the landlord keep four grand -- unless you let everything die.

Hope this helps.
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